Round Trip Distance: 12.5 miles
Elevation: 5242 - 6434 feet
Cellphone: 1-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Jeep - OHV - Dogs
Time: 6 hrs. 30 mins.
Facilities: Vault Toilet
Trailhead: Bangs Canyon Staging Area
View Billings Canyon in a larger map
Billings Canyon is located in the BLM Bangs Canyon Management Area south of Grand Junction, Colorado. The canyon boasts a jeep trail with a Difficult Rating of 9 out of 10. Most of the hiking is easy to moderate. I gave this particular outing a strenuous rating because of the distance and because I went to the top of the hill that towers above the staging area for no better reason than I wanted to check it out.
The Bangs Canyon. Billings Canyon and Tabeguache trails all depart along the road from the south end of the parking area.
A couple of Red-winged Blackbirds have staked claim to the stock pond near the trailhead. In the quiet of the early morning they were singing at their best.
A couple hundred yards down the road the route to Billings Canyon is along the left fork. Most of this hike is along the roads. There isn't much in the way of gravel or loose rocks so it makes for easy walking.
The road works its way across Horse Mesa as it wraps its way around the east side of the mountain towards Billings Canyon. This goes on for about 3.5 miles. The altitude drops steadily but there are several washes that will try your legs.
I finally managed to catch a Juniper Titmouse sitting still long enough for me to take a picture.
The road drops into Billings Canyon and at this point the infamous Billings Canyon 4x4 trail begins. At the start of the trail there is another sign the says 'Do Not Enter if you don't have all the correct equipment'. I forgot to bring my jack so I stayed on the road. Judging from the warning and broken u-joints and stuff the trail must be pretty gnarly.
The road bends back to the west towards Little Park Road. There are several hiking trails that either cross the road or begin off of it. Some of these trails can be taken to get to the Little Park Trailhead and the others are connecting trails that give lots of options for hiking. I could have shortened the hike by continuing on out to Little Park Road and then walk along the road back to my truck. Or I could have taken a connecting trail that led back down Billings Canyon.
I kinda wanted to go to the top of the mountain and look around for other routes down. I several places where I could work my way down the cliffs. As you can see from the map I was right above the Bangs Canyon Staging Area. I found a spot where someone had dug a shallow pit and erected stones around it in a triangle.
I decided to go back to the trail and follow it down one of the branches of Billings Canyon. After about a mile or so the trail down the canyon came within about a hundred yards of the trail I came in on so I cut across a wash to get to it.
After 12 and a half miles of hiking I had come across only one mountain biker and this couple on an ATV. Not much going on in these parts today.
It was less than 3 miles back around to the trailhead but I had to get back all the elevation I had given up on the trip out. It got to be a little like drudgery after awhile but it wasn't too bad. I saw an incredible amount of wildflowers. Spring is probably the best time to make this hike. All the wildflowers certainly perked it up. Sometimes you wonder whether the place you haven't hiked yet might not be the best hike yet. Even when it doesn't turn out that way there still seems to something about it that make you glad you went.
I drank 100 ounces of water and 80 ounce of Gatorade and ate one bagel. I made a trip to McAllister's afterwards to make up the rest. If you think that Billings Canyon is a place you would like to explore you can probably put together a shorter and easier hike than what I took. If you want to find out for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.